Posted in TV Stuff

5 Alternate Takes

Much like my recent look at format busting episodes it occurred to me that another manner of busting out of the same show was the alternate reality episode. This is where you can have the same cast and a similar enough premise, but you also have the opportunity to tell different stories, have different stakes and take risks without costing the main series anything.

It’s unique to fiction that idea of what if, we can’t re-write history, or our memories, but if it’s a story, then you can do whatever you like. One of the best early examples of this was the classic Star Trek episode titled Mirror Mirror, also known as the one with evil Spock with a beard. This was an episode where Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty are beamed up from a planet during some kind of storm, they rematerialise on another Enterprise in another universe, a more savage and merciless universe. This became such a trope that half a dozen other episodes in this place followed, Deep Space 9 had annual looks into the mirror universe and Enterprise did a two-parter set there as well, a highpoint for a series I really had little time for. So when I was thinking about this, I decided to have no Trek at all in this list and to be honest, it left me with more interesting variations on this idea.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wish

Season 3: First aired Dec 8 1998.

During the final High School season of Buffy was this little gem. After being betrayed by her boyfriend and humiliated by her friends Cordelia makes a wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale in front of new girl Anya, only Anya is actually the vengeance demon Anyanka who makes her wish come true, creating a parallel world where two years earlier the Vampire king known as the Master rose and conquered the town. The humans hide at home and during the night the vampires (including main characters Xander and Willow) do whatever they want. Everyone is on top form with Xander being funny, but still threatening and Willow going from goofy nerd to undead bombshell. The whole thing is a masterclass on how to do alternate takes, with no character the same as you know them, but all can be recognised. The vampire Willow eventually made a bit of a comeback and it was a standout episode of that season in my opinion and it was a season full of great episodes.

Doctor Who: Turn Left

Season 4: First aired June 21 2008

 

A similar type of story to Wish, in that a supporting character makes a choice and that choice alters the main character’s story. Coerced into altering her own history Donna Noble prevents herself meeting her fiance and as a result changes the events of the Doctor Who story the Runaway Bride. This has the effect of the Doctor not being stopped at the end of that story, which means he dies and is unable to regenerate. So he’s unable to prevent the destruction of London by the space ship Titanic, or the Sontaran plan to poison the world’s cars, he’s equally unable to save the London hospital that Martha Jones works at. In a world growing more and more bleak, Donna then has to sacrifice herself, to put the timeline right. It’s a facinating look at what one person’s presence or absence can mean to our lives as well as what happens when the hero doesn’t save the day.

Grey’s Anatomy: If/When

Season 8 First aired Feb 2 2012

Other than the parallel earth method, the most common used is the butterfly effect method, where a simple change spins events out in very different ways. In this episode, we get Meredith Grey imagining a world where her mother kept her health and stayed with Richard Webber and raised her together. Here we see all the cast, with their lives changed, there’re are different relationships, different friendships and yet somehow certain patterns reassert. It’s a strange episode that is part what if and part study on destiny. It doesn’t really fit in anywhere in it’s run, but it was an interesting look at what could have been.

Lucifer: Once Upon a Time

Season 3 First aired May 28 2018

Another changing history episode, this had the pairing of Decker and Lucifer not happening when it was meant to as God (voiced by Neil Gaiman) altering history so that Decker never became a cop, so she never met Dan Espinoza, who became a dirty cop and not a father, other characters took different paths and yet somehow all ended up connected again. This was how the season ended, until Netflix stepped in it was how the whole thing was to end and once again, doesn’t fit in with the more dramatic elements of the 3rd season finale. The different paths were interesting with Dr Linda being in TV and Ella Lopez being a car thief instead of a forensic specialist. With no Decker or Trixie to soften her edges Mazikeen became darker and darker and Amenadiel cut off from both his home and the people in his brother’s life. After the tense finale to the Cain storyline, we needed a palette clense, but this was a bit of an oddball.

Bones: The End in the Beginning

Season 4 First aired May 14 2009

This was a bit of a stranger one. It wasn’t the result of a change in history, nor another world as such, the framing sequence is more of a novel being read to the post surgery Seeley Booth and the dream that this reading conjures up. Here everyone is the same for the most part, but living different lives. Instead of scientists in a lab, most of the cast work in a nightclub called the Lab, run by Brennan and Booth, very much a couple in love. Here Brennan is less empirical in her attitude and Booth is a bit more fun loving and more outlandish in his dress. The interns are the barman, doorman, chef, waitress, assitant and DJ. All the cast are there, having fun in these different roles with the same names. We still have Brennan, Booth, Angela, Hodgins et al, but they are all different and often happier and yet still involved in a murder mystery. Out of all of these alternate looks, I find this one to be the better episode and I can watch it again and again.

Well that’s me for now ttfn internet people.

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Posted in TV Stuff

5 Format busting episodes of TV

One of the benefits of television is it’s familiarity. It’s a comfy blanket of pop culture. It’s rarely too daring and most of our favourite shows have very set in stone formulae. This is part of the appeal, knowing what you are getting in a way that films and any print media rarely have the need to. You put on an episode of a Law and Order show, you know you are getting a by the numbers procedural that will be very one and done. You watch something like Hannibal, you know that it’ll be tense, a bit macabre and simply a chapter in a larger tale. Both of those things are good things and both have their place. Every now and again, there’ll be an episode of a show that’ll try and do something a little bit different.

The Obvious Choice – Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once more with Feeling

Season 6: Episode 11, first airing Nov 6 2001.

From the less than spectacular 6th season, this was the musical episode. The plot, such as it was, revolved around and demon bringing a dancing madness to Sunnydale, characters would burst into song, fully aware of how unreal and staged it seems. Most of the cast were given songs that revealed plot points and secrets and despite the idea of a musical episode being both bizarre and out of place, the episode fits rather nicely both as part of the overall arc of Buffy learning to cope after being brough back from paradise as well as standing alone enough to be watched as a singular episode.

Bones: The 200th in the 10th

Season 10: Episode 10, first airing Dec 14 2014

From a season where the show was firing on all cylinders in their usual mode of forensic-led murder mysteries, the 200th episode took a different tactic, putting the episode out as if it was a 1950’s film noir, with detectives, romantic jewel thieves and heavy sexism. The screwball comedy pairing of Boreanaz and Deschanel was well honed by this point and could move their dynamic to different jobs and eras. There was nothing ground breaking about this, but there was a sense of fun to it. It felt very much like a movie from that era, but with dialogue and production values of a more modern time. Like the last choice, this could be watched as either part of the 10th season as a welcome break, or just as a nice one off.

Smallville: Noir

Season 6: Episode 20, first airing May 3 2007

Unlike the first 2 on this list, this was only partly the out of format episode and very much part of the larger season’s arc, but this was very much it’s own thing. Less the romantic cat and mouse of Bones’ noirish story, this was a lot more Raymond Chandler, it had femme fatales, plucky sidekicks, rat-at-at dialogue and something of a downbeat ending, but this felt like a noir story, jammed into the heart of the modern day retelling of Superman’s origin. Everyone was recast in new roles, but with the same names, with Jimmy Olsen a reporter with his ear to the street, Lex Luthor as a mob-boss, Lois was a lounge singer, Chloe the secretary who longed for Jimmy and urged him to succeed. Even Clark Kent was now a hard boiled detective, working undercover as the newspaper’s least imposing staff member. This was 25 mins out of a 40 minute show, but was very watchable and was a highpoint in what was quickly becoming a less than great season.

Doctor Who: Blink

Season 3, episode 10, first airing June 7 2007

I will freely admit this is a bit of a cheat. This episode didn’t shift genres or anything so bold and exciting, but it was a change in that the central character, the Doctor, didn’t actually feature as the main character, nor did the companion who was often the point of view character. The main character here was somone called Sally Sparrow, who just sort of fell into inexplicible and dangerous events involving creatures known as the Weeping Angels. This was tense and atmospheric and without the familiarity of the Doctor, you genuinely didn’t know who was going to make it out of this. Sally was the hero of this story and also the person who in a time-travel paradox sort of war set the story up. The Angels become over-used after this, but their first outing was an excellent example of what the show could be, now given the production values and budget that it had always yearned for. It is an episode that you could show to anyone who was on the fence with Doctor Who and at that point was David Tennant’s most bizarre performance as the Time Lord.

Farscape: Scratch n’Sniff

Season 3: Episode 13 first airing July 20 2001

It was hard to choose between this episode and the episode 16’s Revenging Angel and there were many bizarre shifts in that season. But they all seemed to have a linear coherence to them, it was just everything else that was bizarre. This episode was one that seemed to bounce from scene to scene with little to no sense. The episode was writting and filmed in a more traditional way, but found it’s bizarre form in the editing suite. The story is that D’Argo and John have been arguing more and more and so are sent off the ship to a nearby resort planet. Things go wrong on a number of levels and the pair try to convice the ship’s pilot to let them back on board. Being unreliable narrators, the pair fail to convince, but with cross-dressing, drugs, thieves and random weirdness being part of their lives generally, there’s not reason to believe that this wasn’t exactly what happened. It was played more for laughs than usual, one scene showing D’Argo and John waking up in a shop window wearing stockings and suspenders, but no actual trousers. This was also this season’s appearance of lead actor Ben Browder’s real life wife Francesca Bueller who showed up as the suprising cockney for an alien Raxil.

TV is often comforting in it’s familiarity, but every now and again it’s nice to see something a little bit different in there too.

Ttfn internet people.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7 part 4

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Soolin  –  Glynis Barber

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

If you expected season 4 to either start or end happily has clearly no idea what this show was. The season started with the crew of the destroyed Liberator having being shipwrecked on Terminal. Their only way off was a booby trapped shuttle, the destruction of which destroyed the only shelter on Terminal, costing the life of Cally, who was killed off-screen. The crew are then rescued by a man called Dorien and his ship the Scorpio, controlled by the computer Slave. He brings them aboard and flies him to his home base on the planet Xenon. There they meet Soolin, a  gun for hire working with Dorien, or maybe more. It’s a trap of course and Dorien ends up being more of a Dorien Gray sort of character. The team defeat him and get a base, a ship and with Soolin, a new member of the team. We also get new guns, new teleporter effects, new opening credits and a little bit more of status quo than the aimless wandering of the 3rd season.

The opening titles and production design tell us we’re very much in the 1980s, fitting since the first episode aired on September 28 1981. The team is now very much Avon’s group, with it being a looser group of people bound by experience and mutual interests. They are brigands for sure with heists and jewellery robberies as much the plot as anything rebellious. There’s a bit more focus on character, with Avon becoming more amoral and pragmatic, whilst the others are less trusting of him. The conflicts feel less forced and their more desperate actions making more sense. With Scorpio being less of a warship and more a high speed get away car, there’s less emphasis on space battles and more on running and the dangers of going up against warships and this increases the sense of danger to the cast, all but two of the original 7 having already being killed or driven off. As this band’s fortunes wane, Servalan crops up under a pseudonym to rebuild her powerbase as the Federation is once more expanding. This resurgence galvanises the team to get serious about dealing with them, the back half of the season being about getting resources and allies in order to oppose the Federation once more. This sort of gets full circle, with Avon taking Blake’s role, very much aware that no one is going to rally around him. When that all turns to chaos and disaster Avon turns to the one person he knows could lead this Rebel Alliance, Roj Blake. Blake has been busy, building an army of criminals, gunfighters and malcontents under the pretence of being a bounty hunter. He’s getting ready for his return just as Avon turns up, once again without a ship and his crew scattered. He believes Blake has betrayed him, but it’s Blake that’s been betrayed and the final episode of the season and the series as a whole ends in a shoot out. Well it was never going to be a happy ending was it?

With the pacing being 70’s and the effects being low budget 80’s the cast really had to do all of the heavy lifting. Paul Darrow is having a ball as Avon, all sarcastic Flash Gordon and Michael Keating is solid as the cowardly Vila, who is really only with Avon for safety, but even he as a bit of a hero moment in the last episode, not that it does him any good. Stephen Pacey’s Tarrant is only there as a necessary foil for Avon and we don’t really get to know Soolin too well, we are told she’s a gunfighter, but there’s little to show that at all. The real loser of the season is Josette Simon, who’s role as Dayna seem reduced to damsel in distress one episode and blank cardboard cut out the next. I could say that the female characters don’t do well in this season, were it not for Jacqueline Pearce taking chunks out of the scenery as the gloriously over the top Servalan. Much like the Scorpio’s crew, she has to come back from the abyss to rebuild her life and she does so with a large amount of gusto, owning the screen with the full knowledge of what kind of show she’s in, but having as much fun as Darrow in their scenes. Apart from the last episode, it’s very much Avon vs Servalan and the show works better when the pair of them are on screen.

Overall, I enjoyed this season more than 3 and feel that the show was just getting to grips with what it wanted to be just as it was coming to an end, the dour endings, the hopelessness of the battle against a vast enemy and the underdog natures of the good guys (we were never going to call them heroes, were we?) all made this something very different to what came before and it’s tone and scope wouldn’t have anything similar to it on screen for decades.

It was an interesting watch and I am glad I got to do it. I don’t know that I would ever recommend it to everyone, but if you were a fan of 70’s/80’s Doctor Who, you could do worse.

Once again, thanks to the host of the Palace of Glittering Delights  podcast for getting me onto this program and please check his show out, it’s funny, honest and full of fun stuff that you may have forgotten about, or are glad that someone else remembers.

 

Ta Ta for Now internet people, work is a’calling and apparently they’re expecting me to earn my wages today.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7: Part 3

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Airing 7 January 1980 Aftermath kicked off season 3, a season that took the show in a very different direction. Gone from the series were Gareth Thomas, Sally Knyvette, David Jackson and Brian Crouch, each written out or killed off. Thomas and Knyvette were the leads of the show and their decision to leave left the show without much of the show’s cast and raison detre. This season the focus shifted to Kerr Avon who took the lead protagonist role. Without Travis, the villain of the piece was former Supreme Commander and presently Federation President Servalan.

The series takes place in the aftermath of a galactic war, started at the end of season 2. The Federation is in pieces, the attacking aliens defeated and the crew of the Liberator is scattered. Avon, Cally, Villa and Orac return and are joined by naive, but lethal Dayna and the cocky space-pirate Tarrant. This new crew lacks the ongoing goals of the old one, some wanting revenge on Servalan, others just wanting some profit out of it all.

There’s a greater sense of fun to this series as well as an attempt to tell stories that aren’t Blake’s war on the Federation. Free from Blake’s shadow Avon becomes more of a leader, his loyalty to his team based on their skills rather than sentiment. His relationship with Servalan simmers with sexual tension and mutual admiration. These are both ambitious survivors who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Darrow and Pierce own their roles and play them with an understated charm, which swings wildly to scenery chewing quite easily. Dayna lacks consistent characterisation and Tarrant tries the whole season to take the ship and crew from Avon who has no time for the games and lets him be in charge, up until it’s time for him not to be. It’s interesting, but graes on you after a while. As well as feeling different, the show looks very different, the main  Liberator set is the same, but the costumes vary episode by episode with varying degrees of success. The other returning cast members are at home with the roles, with Villa being exactly as he always was, a bit of a coward and the voice of regular folk in this show, but Cally adds a cynical resignation to her character, someone who has lost time and time again and doesn’t know how many more battles she has left in her, or even what she is fighting for.

 

It was an uneven season, with many lows and highs. It suffered due to the loss of Blake from Blake’s 7, but honestly not as much as it could have. His absence became a character as much as he had been for the last season and the difference was more than made up by giving Paul Darrow’s Avon more screen time. After building the team for a season it all seemed to come apart right at the end with Avon keeping the team in the dark, the Liberator and it’s AI Zen lost and the team stranded after learning after a year of wondering that Blake is indeed dead. All hope seems lost, but this was in keeping with how the series has been up to that point.

Before I watched the series, I was advised that season 2 was the peak, but I will be honest I found this season more enjoyable. It had a few twists, such as Cally being saved on a medical ship at the start of the season, only to find Servalan on it and the later ending up on a planet that used strangers as organ-banks for the rich. There were fun moments with Villa getting the girl, well for a little while. The villains were quite villainous, with Servalan wiping out the population of Cally’s homeworld in her quest to rebuild and expand the Terran Federation. Or Colin Baker showing up as a mad space-pirate who ended up blowing himself to pieces. There’s fun and a silliness to it. It remains not a good show, but being three quarters done, am invested and want to see how it all goes badly wrong for this plucky band of fairly reluctant rebels. I will go back for season 4 because without Gan, without Blake, without Jenna, without Zen and without the Liberator, I want to know what happens next and it’s always good when a show makes you feel that way.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Well that was unnecessarily dark: Or, I really enjoyed Titans

A few years back, Marvel made a deal with Netflix and made some TV shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher. They were gritty and less family friendly that the MCU movies and dealt with themes of guilt, PTSD, race and the effect violence has on you and those around you. Each one had a strong first season, which myself and the MIGHTY Rosie binge watched at the first opportunity. The second seasons and the Defenders series were less strong and were more of slog to get through, to such an extent that it took two months to watch Luke Cage and I gave up on Iron Fist, bypassing Punisher altogether. It wasn’t that they were good, it’s just they kinda struggled to have the same impact. I didn’t feel I had to watch the next one and there seemed less and less reason to carry on after the story had been told.

I tried some of the other shows in a similar vein, with Runaways being such a faithful adaptation that all it did is make you feel you had already watched it. Black Lightning came next which felt too similiar to other shows to be it’s own thing. Then came Cloak and Dagger which was also faithful to it’s source material in that it was overly preachy with uninteresting lead characters. So by the time that Titans was announced I was somewhat less than optimistic.

Titans was originally the Teen Titans which was a bunch of sidekicks including the original Robin (partner to Batman) Aqualad (sidekick to Aquaman), Speedy (sidekick to Green Arrow), Kid Flash (nephew of the Flash) and Wonder Girl (sidekick of/younger version of Wonder Woman) which was as bizarre as Silver Age Bob Haney could make it. Then came the New Teen Titans, which kept some of those characters (Robin, Kid Flash & Wonder Girl), Doom Patrol alum Beast Boy and some new characters (Cyborg, Raven and Starfire) who were created by the new creative team Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It was a massive success for DC when they needed one and the characters blossomed into success stories.

There are other iterations of the Titans, but to be honest, whenever everyone talks about the Teen Titans, this is the version they are talking about. The excellent cartoon series Teen Titans and it’s successor the risable Teen Titans Go (Don’t care, still hate it.) contained most of that line-up. So when the TV was announced, this was where the line-up would come from. Still less optimistic.

Then came the trailer and some screen shots and then came the internet fandom bitching and moaning, too grim and gritty, too off model yadda yadda yadda. So again, my expectations were so low that it was more of a question of ‘might as well’.

But it was actually good. There was the story of Raven, who was revamped as a gothy teen and the death of her stepmother, which brings her into contact with a Detroit detective called Dick Grayson, who up until a couple of years ago was Robin, a role that has left him tortured by the violence he has committed and yet also addicted to that violence. As he realises the danger he is in they flee, meeting up with Hawk and Dove first them colliding with Beast Boy and Starfire as Rachel’s past comes for her. As well as Hawk and Dove, we get a look at the Doom Patrol and Wonder Girl, with the added bonus of Jason (the second Robin) Todd who is exactly as obnoxious as you expect.

The dark tone, the team-less team and the fact that these characters work best as animated ones are all reasons that this shouldn’t have worked and yet. Each character gets their own unique spin with Starfire being unaware of her past through most of the season and Beast Boy being traumatised by something he does in his animal form. We also see that the life Batman leads can do so much harm to those around it. Robin isn’t the swashbuckling boy wonder of old, but a man suffering tremendously with PTSD and guilt. This isn’t the Robin who softened the Batman’s edge, he’s the weapon Batman forged him into. We have a unnaturally powerful girl, a woman who burns like the sun and a boy who can be a green tiger once he’s stripped off, but the scariest is Robin who can and will do brutal harm with abandon. This version of Robin isn’t what I expected, but it was compelling. That’s a microcosm of this whole show. Unexpected and compelling. The violence is brutal, but in a way that feels earned. These guys are doing violent things, mostly for their own reasons and there is no sound effect projected into the air that softens it. It talks about the damage it does, both to the body and mind and I found the whole thing fascinating.

The pacing is tight, with one episode’s exception and after each episode, I checked the time to see if I can watch another one and when I couldn’t, I was disappointed. This was dark, unrelentingly so at times, but this was the best comic-related TV series that I have seen since the first couple of Marvel Netflix shows. I would highly recommend this, even if the characters haven’t grabbed you in other incarnations, because this is a show that made me give a toss about Hawk and Dove and I didn’t think that was possible to be perfectly honest.

It’s on Netflix here in blighty, but I assume it’s available elsewhere and is well worth checking out. Fair warning, there’s a cliffhanger.

Posted in TV Stuff, Uncategorized

Lucky Number 7 Part 2

Part 1 is here

It took me a while after finishing season one, before I could start watching season two, for reasons that can be considered quite obvious if you know what happened in November. But once I had got back into the swing of things, I was once again hooked. Was this out of appreciation for the quality of the show? Or the cultural rubbernecking of watching a pretty naff production? I genuinely can’t decide, but I have enjoyed this show again.

Cast:

Roj Blake –  Gareth Thomas

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Jenna Stannis   – Sally Knyvette

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Oleg Gan -David Jackson

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Travis -Brian Croucher

Debuting on 9th Jan 1979 (40 years before I watched it) Redemption opened the season with the builders of the Liberator coming back to retrieve it, giving us new villains in the System. After this it was back to war on the Federation, personified by Supreme Commander Servalan and her attack dog Travis, this time played by a different actor in a very Darren from Bewitched kind of way. We also get new outfits  and Orac gets a more prominent role. To be honest, the whole thing gets a upgrade in terms of writing and in places performances. We get more nuance from the team who waver in their support of Blake, especially when halfway through the season their mission and Blake’s single-minded fanatacism gets Gan killed. Blake has to pick himself back up and the team at times shows signs of cracking apart.

Travis also gets more screen time as he pivots from fugitive to secret weapon to fugitive again and we see his and Blake’s singlemindedness do nothing but harm to them. Blake and Avon also butt heads more as Avon tires of the idealism that threatens to decend into bloody revolution. The season leads us closer to the idea that Blake isn’t the hero that he makes himself out to be and he becomes more and more comfortable with the idea that the Federation isn’t going down without a whole lot of innocent people being killed.

We still have the problems with pacing, lack of decent fight choreography and bizarre directing choices and there’s more than a few racially insensitive moments, but by and large this show stands up better in it’s second season that it ever did in it’s first. The whole thing comes to a head with it’s final episode Star One, which saw the departure of more than one member of the cast.

The season ends on something of a cliff-hanger, with the crew forced to abandon their plan to cripple the Federation, when it becomes apparent that they need it intact to deal with an even greater threat as an external threat looms over the whole galaxy.

Much like the first season, this is a uneven affair. The actors for the most part give it their all, with Paul Darrow trying to out arch everyone and Jacqueline Pearce looking very slender for someone feasting so heavily on the scenery. It’s a better season as the show starts to shape itself into something new and hopefully better.

I enjoyed it better than the first one and am now a lot more invested in it, I’m hoping that’s a good thing?

Season three is next, wish me luck.

 

Posted in TV Stuff

For the Geek in me, 2018 was awesome part 2: TV

​In a ‘challenging’ year there have been a number of times I needed to get out of my own head and just enjoy this and whilst pickings have been slim, what I have found to enjoy I really have enjoyed. While I have watched a lot of continuing stuff from previous years, there was also a few new shows to enjoy.

Doctor Who


I am treating this as a new series, with the entire new cast and producer. After the up and frequent downs of Capaldi’s era, a change was needed. We ended up with a surprisingly enjoyable Bradley Walsh along with a pair of relatively unknown actors as companions, with Jodie Whittaker excelling as the newly female Doctor. It’s a lighthearted show with moments of depth and pathos. This back to basics approach has left me as excited and it’s nice to be excited about Doctor Who again.

Strong

I am not a fan of ‘reality’ TV and so this show with it’s contrived premise and forced tensions should have been unwatchable, but I found this rivetting. Eight women of various fitness levels and backgrounds are paired with eight personal trainers of differing disciplines to compete in teams of two in a series of fitness based competitions to win up to $500,000.

It’s heavily product placed and much of the drama is contrived, but with its theme of empowerment, making positive changes and competition moving you forward it was a surprisingly entertaining show. Watching these women grow in confidence as they acquired the strength they felt they lacked was really satisfying. This was a show that proves that whatever health-based changes you make to your body, it’s the changes to your mind that matter the most.

You’re the Worst


I wasn’t sure what to make of this show when I caught it at the start of the year. It was a romantic comedy, with mostly unlikeable characters. To be honest, that sounds like most romantic comedies to me, but these characters are meant to be unlikeable. Publicist Gretchen and moderately successful author Jimmy are the worst people any of their friends know and sort of end up together without really trying. Add in Jimmy’s flatmate the well meaning veteran Edgar and Gretchen’s best friend Lyndsay who is trying her best to be happy in a marriage that she’s not really invested in, but lords her getting married first over her older sister, Jimmy’s ex. No one here is nice, or trying to be a better person, they’re either oblivous, narcissistic or some combination of both. There’s a season long narrative, but that sort of gives the series a nice ending point and so when the 2nd season started last month, I decided to leave it at one season which I enjoyed. It’s not for everyone, but I really did enjoy this.

Roast Battle

Jimmy Carr has made a career out of being a little nastier than his peers. From his insulting introductions on 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, to his relaunch of Your Face or Mine alongside Katherine Ryan, he’s best known for nasty jokes, quick one-liners and being singled out for tax avoidance. He takes that talent for tearing people a new one to it’s natural extension with Roast Battle. Roast Battle isn’t original, it comes from an american show with Jeff Ross and Brian Moses, the latter being on here as a referee. The concept is simple, two comedians trade insults and barbed jokes, getting five jokes each with little to no restrictions and the panel (made up of Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan and someone known to misbehave in public, we’ve had Russell Brand and Johnathan Ross so far) judge the winner. The jokes are cutting and quite often below the belt. A particular highlight was Bobby Mair and his wife Harriet against eachother and her best line being “You look adopted.” the whole crowd went “Oooooh” at that one. There’s been best friends, girlfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife and at one point father and son. There’s bad language and savage jokes aplenty, but none of it feels mean spirited. This is sparring as much as anything else and it’s made me laugh as hard as anything else this year.

A Discovery of Witches

There are very few tropes that get an airing as often as vampires and other supernaturals living in secret. Twilight, Moonlight, Blood Ties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Vampire DIaries, Midnight Texas, True Blood and others besides, so it wasn’t particularly something I had any real interest in, when the marketing started. That said, like the good little geek I am, I gave it a go. There wasn’t the usual flashy effects from day one, the nighttime settings and the angry and tortured vampire. This was mostly set in Oxford, during the day and the vampire was calm and composed the whole time. This was about a society of vampires, witches and demons co-existing through compromise and strict segregation. Diana Bishop (a witch) tries to research a book on the history of alchemy and this brings year into contacts with Matthew Clairmont (a vampire) who needs it for his research into the declining numbers of vampires, witches and demons. This book is wanted by nearly everyone on each side and a massive game of politics and magic grows into a war that threatens the peace between the creatures and the safety of this witch and vampire, who find themselves drawn to one another.

This show is beautifully shot and acted with conviction and nuance by a very capable cast working from a fascinating story with more than a few twists and turns which left the first season with something of a cliffhanger, which I only realised was a season ender after the episode finished. With DVDs, streaming services and catch up TV, I very rarely have anything like a regular schedule for any Tv, but this was a show that the MIGHTY Rosie and I watched this religiously.

New TV this year was very much about quality over quantity, but there was a lot of good stuff as there is every year and no doubt lots and lots of things that I missed as well as stuff that started last year that continued to entertain and with news series slated to start soon and new series of current favourites like Star Trek Discovery, Bojack Horseman and Orville either starting soon or already started, 2019 looks to be another embarassment of riches.

Two down, one to go and it’s back to the cinema.

Posted in Podcasts, Shared Stuff, TV Stuff

Podcast a-go-go

As I wrote in a previous post, my affection for Star Trek goes quite a way quite back. The Next Generation was where I really grew to love Trek and one of my favourite podcasters has recently done an episode of his excellent Palace of Glittering Delights all about TNG and it really is worth a listen. TNG was never a perfect show, but with over 180 episodes and 4 movies, there was some great stuff in.here and he looks at 10 he enjoyed. I have an order I listen to podcasts in, being so behind on my subscriptions, but Palace always jumps the queue.
[Palace of Glittering Delights] 101 – Top Ten (ish) Treks II

http://podplayer.net/?id=58481977 via @PodcastAddict

Posted in TV Stuff

I believe in redemption: Or I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery

Trek and Me:

As a longtime fan of sci-fi and similar genres, it’s not going to be shocking information that I was a fan of Star Trek. I was for many years a Trekkie and feel no more embarassment about that, than I do anything else I am a fan of. By that I mean, deeply embrassed in the past, but a lot less concerned about people’s opinion now. Whilst Star Trek was on telly when I was younger, it wasn’t until The Next Generation started in 1987 that I really started to get into Star Trek. With it’s hopeful future, high concept sci-fi ideas and cool technology, there was a lot for me to like, it even had a number of alien characters for my less socially confident self could identify with. The show went from strength to strength and this spin off itself had a spin off, the excellent Deep Space 9. It peaked at that point and for me the less said about Voyager and Enterprise the better. For many years Trek was the only game in town for quality TV sci-fi, so it kind of got away with coasting from time to time, when other sci-fi TV and films started getting better, Trek didn’t keep up, so when Enterprise called it a day at 4 years old, I was quite sanguine about the whole thing, we got over 28 seasons of enjoyable TV and ten or so movies, I think we did alright and so Star Trek kind of went away.

Years went by and then the JJ Abrams reboot happened, recastings and hand-wavy alternate universes gave us new Trek, but with all the old names and it was …good. The first film stands up as a good space opera movie, with action and some small amount of pathos and a little fun here and there, but didn’t feel like Trek, the second one wasn’t better in that regard, the third one, Star Trek Beyond, felt a little more like real Star Trek, but the writing was on the wall and with all sorts of problems with the casting and the like, it felt like movie Trek was about to go the way of TV Trek and I was okay with that, Star Trek was a TV thing anyway, so it not being on at the pictures was no great loss, I mean with the MCU and Star Wars doing so well, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to fill up my Blu-Ray collection.

But really, Star Trek was and really should be a TV show, it was more cerebral, more episodic and was made to have a large cast, that didn’t really need a star. Then we heard the news, Star Trek was coming back to the small screen on a streaming service, then the horror for the non-Americans, it was a streaming service we didn’t get. Fortunately the ever expanding Netflix got the international nights and along with all the old shows, we got something unexpected, for the first time in ten years, new Trek on TV. For the first time in a while, Star Trek was exciting again.

The show itself.

Warning, spoilers

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Set just before the Original series, in the 2250’s, this was the story of Michael Burnham, the adopted daughter of Sarek of Vulcan, who had become the 1st officer of the USS Shenzhou under it’s captain Philippa Georgiou. Whilst surveying a binary star system, the ship encounters Klingons. These Klingons under the leadership of zealot T’Kuvma are trying to unite the great houses of Quo’nos and the best way to do that is to find a common foe, in this case the United Federation of Planets. Michael sees this heading towards a fight and tries to strike first, to avoid diplomacy and meet the Klingons as they would meet them. This goes badly and this ill-advised course of events, leads to a state of war between the Federation and the Klingon empire, which was of course what T’Kuvma wanted all along. After shooting her superior officer and her attempts to make things right getting her captain killed, Michael is arrested for treason, stripped of her commission and sentenced to prison for the rest of her life, all as the Federation she did this all for is plunged into a war that Starfleet (mostly at this point being explorers rather than soldiers) is ill-equipped to fight.

6 Months later, she is on a shuttle being moved to another ship, when it’s attacked by a Klingon vessel and is rescued by the USS Discovery, under the command of Gabriel Lorca, who see’s Michael as useful to him. Michael is uneasy, seeing many of her old crew on Discovery, including it’s 1st officer is Mr Saru, her old subordinate on the Shenzhou. Lorca offers her a chance a redemption, a way to win the war and explore the universe once more. She’s given quarters, which she shares with an incredibly chatty cadet called Tilly and an assignment in engineering with the less than cheerful Lt Paul Stamets. The first season of Discovery is essentially Michael’s redemption, her second chance to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

There’s the usual easter eggs, with appearances by Spock’s parents, Harry Mudd as well as many mentions of familar worlds and races, but there’s also a lot of new. The uniforms are not the old two piece bright colours and the Klingons also get quite the new look. There’s a bleaker tone, as if a brighter world has been tarnished by war, but still yearns to gleam. We also get looks as what it means to be a human raised by aliens, what war does to good people and also how compassion for our enemy might be the only thing that seperates us from them. We see matter of fact depictions of gay marriage, sensitive handlings of post traumatic stress disorder and what different people are okay living with in order to keep themselves and their way of life alive.

It isn’t Star Trek of old, it isn’t Rodenberry’s way, but it is compelling, it is interesting and it is a welcome return to Trek on TV. It starts well, takes several twists and turns and ends up as single season that tells an interesting story about redemption, about principles and about compassion.

This could have been a disaster (cough Enterprise cough) but instead was a thoughtful 15 part story that showed me that my love of Star Trek was an ongoing thing, rather than something a bit of my history. When I heard that season 2 was coming in January, I was actually excited about it.

It’s not it’s episodic antecedents, but if you have ever enjoyed Trek, you’ll find a lot of the good is still there, if you haven’t then it’s different enough from what it was to win new fans. It’s easy to find on Netflix here in the UK and it’s well worth seeking out.

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Good Reboots

It’s hard to recapture the magic needed to make a great TV show. That has never, ever stopped the skilled and the unskilled having a go at it again and again.

Whilst most are ridiculous car-crashes (cough Charlie’s Angels) there are those that are actually decent enough in and of themselves and can almost stand alongside the originals.

The Obvious: Battlestar Galactica

A soup to nuts Reboot of the 70’s cult classic, this took familiar names and took them to a darker and less camp exploration of survival at the bitter edge.

The Recent One: Lethal Weapon

A Reboot of a film rather than a TV show this had the madcap action of the films, but a deeper look at the effects of depression and PTSD was with it. It was funny and moving in equal measure and never treated the subject matter lightly.

The CGI One: Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet was a bleak almost noirish spy-fi series from the creator of Thunderbirds and more often than not, pulled no punches. It wasn’t as kid friendly as the other shows from Gerry Anderson and this relaunch followed suit, adding more modern sensibilities and more in depth characterisation. It’s worth checking out.

The Rom-Com one: Lois & Clark the New Adventures of Superman

After the earnestness of George Reeves in the 1950’s, the 90’s Reboot took a very His Girl Friday approach to the early years of Superman. Dean Cain was innoffensively bland as Clark as well as Superman, but it was Terri Hatcher’s Lois Lane that stole much of the show with her portrayal of a workaholic who’s life outside of work was a disaster area.

The Continuation One: Doctor Who

For 25 years Doctor Who was a mainstay of BBC TV, before it died a slow death of low quality and lower ratings. It took a couple of decades to get back to the idea of making good Who to come back around again. This show was accessible enough to appeal to new fans, but felt enough like the old show to appeal to the old guard, it was eventually connected to the older show making it just as much a continuation as a Reboot.

There are other examples of good relaunches and so many more of bad ones, which are guaranteed to mean that more ill-advised reboots are coming, but maybe, just maybe there are some diamonds in that rough.